07 November, 2021

Missed the Mark

I'm trying to get stuff done today, but I can't take it anymore and this is my safe space to vent.

We stayed up late last night to watch my Dad's memorial service (live-streamed, of course) and it was terrible. SO awful! Solemn, slow, dirge-y...

Not that funerals are meant to be fun, but I've been to enough of them that I feel like a connoisseur. And this one was way less than he deserved.

In a nutshell, the pastor - of the church they've attended faithfully for at least 15 years - sounded like he didn't know my dad at all. If I was a visitor I would have thought that. Pastor Nameless mentioned two things that showed he knew my dad: 1. The trees he planted when he moved in so long ago seem to need a trim (judgy, much?) and 2. My dad is stubborn. Okay, my whole family is stubborn. Dad's stubbornness is not judgy opinion, but fact. (I had to get it somewhere!)

Other than that, anything mentioned about my dad could have been pulled from the obit or Luther's Small Catechism. Seriously. He believed this, that, all the stuff we profess in our confirmation at 13, and then basic life facts: Lived in these places, surviving family includes these people, blah-blah. No celebration of his life, at all!

And no one got up to speak except the pastor. Which would be fine if he said anything warm or kind or with any sort of feeling!

The focus was on the resurrection, which I get. We are Christian, and the knowledge of being reunited in the hereafter is a cause for celebration, but so is my dad's life! It just seems like the bigger focus should have been on the life that had just ended.

No talk about the numbers of lives he touched ALL around the world; no mention of his passion for education or his dry wit. Possibly because the pastor didn't get Dad's humor. Or maybe because he was intimidated by him? My dad has a lot of letters after his name, and I recall friends telling me, after meeting him, "Well he's not scary at all!" as if I had somehow said he was.

But to the right crowd, Dad could be entertaining. Once he and Mom came out east to see me in a play, and happened to be there on the night the director was hosting a cast party. The next day when I got to the theatre, my director asked if my dad was still in town and looked crestfallen when I said they had left that morning. "That guy is like a party trick!" he said. I'll never forget that. 

But he wasn't all high-brow. I've seen him exchange dad jokes with the best of them. They are so groan-worthy I won't even quote them.

The main photo used - on the funeral home obit, on the table in the front of the church - was one of him wearing a granddad cap and a grin on his face, holding a big stein of beer (maybe in Turkey? Maybe in a local steak house?). That photo alone says more than the pastor did.

I left the virtual memorial service feeling let down. It should have been more. He deserved better.

But if my mom was happy with it, that's all that matters. Funerals are for the living. The dead don't care anymore.

Thanks for listening.


  1. I'm so sorry for your loss. And it sounds like a terrible funeral. I've never been to one funeral where the officiant really knew the deceased. (We're not a religious bunch.) I'm so sorry that someone who should have known your father couldn't come up with a way of demonstrating that.

    1. I've been to funerals where memories shared from the pulpit brought laughs. I guess I didn't really expect laughs, but I had expected a little more feeling. Of any kind. It was weird.

      Whichever family member dies next year, I'll have lower expectations.

  2. I was thinking the same thing about the service as I sat beside you and watched. I didn't want to say anything negative because it was YOUR dad and YOUR church. But when you spoke up, I realized it wasn't just me.

    When I was a pastor, I really enjoyed putting together sermons for funerals when I knew the person. I even had the honor of co-writing a sermon for a funeral with the man the funeral would be for. I went to his house every day in the last week of his life and he told me what he wanted said and gave me specific stories to tell. He had things he wanted said to his siblings and children after he was gone. It was the most beautiful service I ever got to be a part of.

    1. I really wonder how much of this service was what Dad wanted. He wouldn't even talk with Mom about writing a will, so my guess is he didn't have anything written down about what he wanted for a memorial service. I hope I get to see you give a funeral someday!


I enjoy a good debate. Feel free to shake things up. Tell me I'm wrong. Ask me why I have such a weird opinion. ...or, just laugh and tell how this relates to you and your life.